The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) held the OSCE Chairmanship Conference on Tolerance and Diversity in Berlin last month on 20th October, with a pre-conference for civil society on 19th October. The 57 member states of OSCE from three continents – North America, Europe and Asia – were represented at the main conference. Several hundred representatives from the civil society were brought together at the pre-conference to prepare draft recommendations for tolerance and diversity, targeting the 57 member states. The ENIL Executive Director Jamie Bolling was invited to make sure that disability was covered in the recommendations.
This conference highlighted the significance of being open to diversity and embracing change for modern and democratic societies. The aim was to show that, taking the prohibition of discrimination against all individuals and unconditional respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as the starting point, the various stakeholders (such as governments, civil society organisations, the media, business and the citizens), need to actively shape social coexistence. This is an important element of a response to the world’s and Europe’s current challenges, including consequences of displacement and migration, combating the causes of terrorism, determining the position and significance of religions and minorities, and tackling issues of national identity in the light of global challenges.
The conference also aimed to help participants to improve the efficiency of their efforts to counter discrimination and intolerance and to promote democracy and diversity, in order to reach unity in diversity. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is the foundation for peaceful social coexistence in the countries and across borders. Civil society is recognized by OSCE for its important role in promoting tolerance and diversity. Contributions of civil society actors, especially through education, towards tackling prejudices and hatred, as well as through combating hate speech, were sought on Wednesday, 19th October. The results of the discussions were brought forward at the main conference the following day.
There were four working groups, with ENIL participating in ‘Working Group III – Effective safeguards against discrimination’. Hate Crime was one of the main focus areas, but also discrimination in general. In the OSCE region, persons and groups suffer from manifestations of intolerance and discrimination that result in hate crime. Therefore, the group found it important to urge participating States to fully and readily implement their commitments to combat acts motivated by prejudice, intolerance and hatred (e.g. the Ministerial Council Decision No. 9/09 on Combating Hate Crime), while fully protecting freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of religion or belief and all other human rights and fundamental freedoms.
A key recommendation was to include sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to the list of discriminatory grounds recognized by Principle 13.7 of the Concluding Document of the Vienna Meeting of Representatives of the Participating States of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (1989). Finally, countries were called to to include inaccessibility as discrimination in legislation, in order to promote full participation of disabled people.
ENIL found this meeting to be of high importance and would like to thank OSCE for inviting us to contribute to the indispensable work that the organisation does.
*What is OSCE?
The OSCE has a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses politico-military, economic and environmental, and human aspects. It therefore addresses a wide range of security-related concerns, including arms control, confidence- and security-building measures, human rights, national minorities, democratization, policing strategies, counter-terrorism and economic and environmental activities. All 57 participating States enjoy equal status, and decisions are taken by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding basis. Read more here.
** History of OSCE
The precursor to the OSCE, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), was created during the Cold War in the early 1970s as a multilateral forum to foster dialogue between East and West – known as Helsinki Process. After two years of negotiations, the groundbreaking Helsinki Final Act was signed on 1 August 1975. Parties to this agreement made a number of commitments on each of the three dimensions of security. They also agreed on ten fundamental principles, known as the Helsinki Decalogue, governing their behaviour towards each other and towards their citizens.
With the end of the Cold War, the strategic CSCE/OSCE process underwent a major transformation to adjust itself to the changing landscape of international politics. In 1990, the Paris Charter for a New Europe was adopted, reaffirming the “Helsinki Decalogue” (of The Final Act of 1975), but also setting the basis of a common understanding for domestic democratic governance. Moreover, permanent OSCE institutions were established in 1990, including the Secretariat and the Conflict Prevention Center. In 1992, the first OSCE field operations were deployed in the Balkans.
Since its inception, the OSCE has shown an impressive degree of flexibility and adaptation as a regional security organization in its readiness to address new threats and challenges. Its comprehensive cross-dimensional approach to security allows the Organization to continue to play a leading role in attaining and maintaining regional peace, stability and democratic development.
In 1999 at the Istanbul Summit, Leaders of participating States adopted the Charter for European Security, recognizing that conflicts within States pose as much of a threat as conflicts between States. Read more here.